Book Review: The Beach Trap by Ali Brady #family #rejection #reconciliation

Blake and Kat meet at camp as 12-year-olds and quickly bond, promising to be best friends forever. But then Kat’s dad arrives to pick her up and Blake quickly realizes that this is her Dad too, and she was part of her dad’s secret family up until her mother died. Finding out they were sisters does not make Kat happy. Instead, she becomes angry and never talks to Blake again–until their father dies 15 years later and leaves them both a beach house.

This is both a heartwarming and heartbreaking read, as Blake deals with decades of rejection and Kat confronts misplaced anger. Of the two romances, the one with Blake and Noah is more in-depth and interesting. The sisters are well portrayed, with social media influencer Kat a perfect contrast to her down-to-earth, dogsitting half-sister. Another theme is introduced, as Blake is wading into the uncertain and expensive waters of finding care for her grandfather, who is experiencing dementia. The beach setting is perfectly cozy, and home renovation is a popular topic that many readers will enjoy. Full of family, secrets, and the pain of rejection, this is a great summer read.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ali Brady is the pen name of writing BFFs Alison Hammer and Bradeigh Godfrey. THE BEACH TRAP is their first book together. Alison lives in Chicago where she works as a creative director for an advertising agency. She has published two solo books, YOU AND ME AND US and LITTLE PIECES OF ME. Bradeigh lives in Utah with her husband and four children. She works as a doctor, and her solo debut, IMPOSTER is forthcoming.

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Apple Books | Google | Kobo | Amazon UK

Memorial Day Tribute to a Hero #VietnamWar #MemorialDay #MemorialDayTribute

This is a tribute to my uncle, Wayne D. Jenkins, who died in Vietnam in 1968 just before he would have turned 21. I was only four years old when he passed, so I never got to know him. I will always wonder what his life would have been like and what additional family members we would have had if he was not taken so young. He is a hero to our family.

FIND A GRAVE MEMORIAL

From the Find-A-Grave website:

SP4 Wayne Daniel Jenkins, Vietnam Veteran, Native of Bryson City, NC.

Specialist Four Wayne Daniel Jenkins was a casualty of the Vietnam War. As a member of the Army Selective Service and a Draftee, SP4 Jenkins served our country until September 12th, 1968 in Bing Long, South Vietnam. He was 20 years old and was not married. It was reported that Wayne died from small-arms fire or grenade. His body was recovered. Wayne was born on September 16th, 1947 in Bryson City, North Carolina. SP4 Jenkins is on panel 44W, line 038 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. He served our country for one year.

Sp4 Jenkins, this is in remembrance of you and the members of your squad who were ambushed on September 12, 1968, while on reconnaissance 5 kilometers Northeast of Loc Ninh, Binh Long Province, Vietnam. That day was a long and sad day for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. You will never be forgotten. Niner One.

He was the son of Mr. Ed C Jenkins, Bryson City, NC.

He served with Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, USARV.

He was awarded The Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), Bronze Star Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart Medal for his combat-related wounds, the Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, The National Defense Service Medal, The Army Achievement Medal, and The Army Commendation Medal.

-I will never forget that day. We lost 11 men. Richard Smith, 11571 Hadar Drive, San Diego, CA.

-I served with Recon 1st/28th. I won’t forget you or that day. Love and Peace to your family. Recon was as close to family as you can get. Larry Schluter, Renton, Wa 98056

-Brother, I miss you. Thank you to all who survived and knew Wayne Jenkins. God Bless You! Ed Jenkins Jr., 333 Ed Jenkins Rd, Bryson City, NC (My Uncle Ed has since passed away)

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

#2022 Short Story Challenge: Ode to a Storytelling Mom

The 2022 Short Story Challenge started by A Virginia Writer’s Diary is all about folklore, and the original post can be found here. We are finally caught up, and here is our official post for May. For our May entry, we’re focusing on the mountain tradition of storytelling, as well as Mother’s Day, to bring you a story from my Mom, who passed away in 2020.

Dorothy Jenkins Zinser

ABOUT MY MOM

Dorothy Jenkins was born in 1931 in the mountains of Western NC. Her father, Ed Calloway Jenkins, was a farmer who took on other jobs to make ends meet, including working in a sawmill. Her mother, Edith, worked hard at home and raised 12 children. Dorothy, or Dot, only went to school until the eighth grade because she was needed at home to help take care of the family. However, she loved to read. She read a book a day when I was a kid. Growing up, her mother would read stories to my Mom and her siblings, often Grace Livingston Hill romances or Zane Grey westerns. And my Mom could tell a story. One of my favorites was the story about the jar of peanut butter. I’m calling it Death by Peanut Butter, and you will see the reason why when you read the last two lines. She wrote that story down, and I’m providing it below with some dialogue and context thrown in. I also added a bit of another story she used to tell us about The Swinging Bridge.

This is Appalachian folklore in its purest sense–Mountain parents and grandparents sharing stories of their lives with their children.

DEATH BY PEANUT BUTTER

One day my Momma asked me to go to the store and a get jar of peanut butter for school lunches. “Ok,” I said, “Can I take Ed and Bonnie?”  My brother Ed was eight years old and Bonnie was only six.   

“Yes, Dot,” she said, “But take care of them!”

I said okay and we went on our way.  It was four miles one way to the store, and we ran along, playing and being silly, until we made our way to town.

In the early to mid-1940s, in order to get to the store in our town, which was Bryson City, North Carolina, we had to cross the Tuckasegee River. That was the scariest part of the trip.  Our little town was split in the middle by that river.  In order to get across, we had to use the swinging bridge that had been put up by the Carolina Wood Turning company, a furniture company where our Daddy worked in the lumberyard.

The swinging bridge had always been a scary place for me.  The river could get very wild, and the bridge rocked back and forth on windy days, with only rope on the sides to hold onto.  I’ll never forget the day, a couple years before, when I brought my Daddy his lunch.  He had always crossed the bridge to meet me, because he knew how scared I was to cross it.  But that day he did not.  He sat down on the bank and called, “Dot, come over here!”

I was terrified, but I had to do as my Daddy said.  I slowly stepped onto the bridge, which creaked and swayed.  I stopped, shaking, afraid to go forward. He called out again, “Dot, don’t be afraid. Just look at me!” 

It was the most terrible trip, that first trip across the bridge.  But keeping my eyes on my Daddy and not on the water, I made it across.  Ever since then, I was able to help Momma more, such as running those errands to the store, because I could cross that bridge and go to town.

Even now, each crossing was a scary event for me.  I held tight to my sister Bonnie’s hand, but my brother Ed scampered across without a fear in the world. 

At the store, I bought the jar of peanut butter plus some other things my Momma needed.  The lady at the counter smiled at little Bonnie and said, “Would you like a peppermint stick, Sweetie?” 

Her big grin and quick nod resulted in all three of us receiving candy for the trip back.  What a treat!

Of course we had to head back to that swinging bridge in order to go home, so we walked across, sucking on our candy and enjoying the day.  I went even more slowly because I was carrying the bit of groceries.

At the end of the bridge, a strange man was standing, swaying back and forth, and he wouldn’t let us pass.  I asked him nicely to let us go past him, but he did not.  The bridge was narrow, and he was blocking the exit.  He kept swaying and talking unintelligibly, trying to keep us trapped on the bridge.  I don’t know why.  He was probably drunk. 

I said very loudly “Let us off this bridge!” but he did not.  I was getting worried now, so I told Ed, “When I say run, take Bonnie and run!”  Again I said very loudly, “Let us off this bridge!” When he didn’t move, I yelled “Run!” and Ed and Bonnie began to run.  I took that jar of peanut butter and threw it at this odd man, hitting him in the head.  And wouldn’t you know it, he fell over and then rolled down the hill! 

Ed and Bonnie were already running toward home, but I looked for the jar of peanut butter. It was sitting halfway down the hill and was not broken.  I ran and got it.  My Momma needed that peanut butter.  I took off for home, catching up with my brother and sister.  We never told our Momma or Daddy about this until we were grown.

My brother Ed, when telling this story, would always say I killed a man with a jar of peanut butter!  I don’t think so, but I sure didn’t go back to check!

Mom in her favorite place–the garden.

At this link is a picture of the lumberyard of the Carolina Wood Turning Company in 1942. If you enlarge the photo and look over the water, you will see a narrow swinging bridge. That’s the bridge from this story.

My mom lived on this land until she got married at the age of 17 and moved to Cincinnati with my Dad. In 1989, they retired and moved back to Bryson City, where they lived until 2009, when my Dad’s health problems caused them to return to Cincinnati. In 2009, My Mom sold her house and land to me and my husband. My Dad passed in 2019 at the age of 91. Mom passed suddenly at the age of 88 in 2020. In 2024, I will retire and we will spend the rest of our lives on this land.

Self-Published Spotlight: An Only Child No More #FoundFamily #Memoirs #Indiebooks

*Not a book review

Self-Published Spotlight is my effort to help highlight Self-Published books. It includes a description of the book and buy links, plus author information if it is provided. Self-Published Spotlights can go up any day, but I happened to get a request for this one right before Self-Published Saturday, so here it is! Below is my spotlight of the memoir of Martha Levallee, who writes about discovering a family she never knew she had. See the book description below:

BOOK DESCRIPTION

This poignant, uplifting memoir describes the emotional journey of a middle-aged woman who receives an unexpected email, and suddenly learns that her now-deceased parents had kept secret from her the fact that she has a half-brother.

Raised as an only child, the revelation occurs without any DNA testing of anyone in the family. This true story describes her coming to terms with this shocking information, as she remembers vague clues that had been presented to her during her youth. It also details her quest to meet her brother and his family, and to make this family her own, despite the logistical challenges of different languages and continents.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON|AMAZON UK|B&N

Blog Tour and Book Review: Only for my Daughter

*I’m on the schedule for Saturday, but I had to put this up a day early.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

I look at my lovely girl. The child I always promised to keep safe, the child I know I’d love no matter what. I look at her and in that moment, my heart breaks into pieces. Because right now, I am not sure I know her at all…

Julia’s daughter Grace is her whole world. To Julia, she’ll always be the little girl who would put her tiny hand in hers, who she could heal with the smallest kiss, who would trust her mother with everything.

But Grace has changed since becoming a teenager. She’s fallen out with her childhood best friend and has become quiet and distanced. Julia wants more than anything to find a way reach her only daughter. Even if some days it seems impossible, Julia knows her lovely, sunny girl is still in there.

Until today when Grace came home after school, covered in blood, and she’s refusing to speak, except to acknowledge that her former best friend is lying in a coma in hospital.

Julia is forced to ask herself: what could Grace be hiding? She can’t believe her little girl could have done something terrible. But her instincts tell her that Grace is keeping a secret. And if it’s what Julia fears it might be, she could lose her fragile, gentle daughter forever.

And – as another mother’s daughter fights for her life – Julia will have to ask herself, how far would she go as a mother to protect the child she loves with her whole heart?

This totally unmissable, heartbreaking, grab-your-tissues story is perfect for fans of Kate Hewitt, Diane Chamberlain and Jodi Picoult.

BOOK REVIEW

This definitely has a “grabbed from the headlines” feel as teenage bullying leads to violence and injury. Mothers all over will feel for Julia as she struggles to protect her bullied daughter. The pressures on teen girls and even their mothers to be perfect and “in with the right crowd” definitely will strike a chord with many readers. The struggle of parents to get their teens to talk is real, even when they are in terrible danger. It took me back to the most unpleasant parts of high school, things that have only gotten worse with the introduction of social media. This heartbreaking read might make you pause your day and remind the teens in your life how much you care. Gut-wrenching, emotional, and true to life. Highly recommend. 4.5 stars, rounded up to five on sites without a half-star option.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Robinson is the author of several women’s fiction novels. She also blogs about the funny side of parenting and has contributed to podcasts such as Funny Women. Whilst her early novels are humorous, her recent work focuses on emotional themes and these novels are both heartbreaking and life-affirming. Emma enjoys writing stories that explore the power of family and friendship in the most challenging circumstances.

Emma currently lives in Essex with a husband, two children and a small black dog.

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

BUY LINKS

Amazon

Amazon UK

Blog Tour and Book Review: My Mother’s Gift #Dementia #Alzheimer’s

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Can your heart belong somewhere that you’ve never called home?

When Erica gets a phone call to say her mother, Ione, is ill in St Lucia, she knows she must go to her. Though the island – the place of her mother’s birth – is somewhere that Erica has never seen as her homeland.

Even when the plane touches down in the tropical paradise, with its palm trees swaying in the island breeze, the sound of accents so like her mother’s own calling loud in the air, Erica doesn’t find herself wanting to stay a moment longer than she has to.

But stepping into her mother’s house, she is shocked by what she finds. Her mother’s memory is fading, her once-immaculate house is now dirty and messy, and she’s refusing help from anyone but family. And Erica knows she must stay with her, even though it means leaving everything else behind.

What she doesn’t know is that – even as her mother’s memories get worse – Ione still has a final gift for her daughter. Because the unspoken secrets of their past are about to emerge, changing everything Erica thought she knew about her mother, her home, and who she really is…

BOOK REVIEW

This was a heartbreaking read about a woman losing her mother to Alzheimer’s. She is also forced to confront painful truths from the past. As someone who had a parent and grandparent with dementia, I know that towards the end they live mostly in the past, and I know the pain of watching a parent forget you. The author lays this story out in a forthright way, without trying to sugarcoat the truth. Caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s/Dementia is incredibly tough, not very pretty, and you need help. Erica’s journey to get to the point where she accepts help, and the decision about what that is going to entail, is a big part of the story. It is also a journey of acceptance–acceptance of the past, and acceptance of a new future.

I found the descriptions of life in St. Lucia and the Caribbean culture interesting and I hope to learn more about it.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steffanie Edward was born in St Lucia, brought up in London and now straddles between the two.

Anancy, Crick-crick and other Caribbean folk stories have been a part of her life since childhood. In her late teens she enjoyed reading Susan Howatch and books on slavery. Her absolute favorite reads have been Wild Seed by Octavia E Butler, and Woman At Point Zero by Naawal El Saadawi.

Her writing career started with short stories, five of which have been published. Her first attempt at writing a novel was over twenty years ago, whilst living and working in Abu Dhabi. That novel, Yvette, didn’t make it into print, but the main protagonist, Yvette, has muscled her way into Steffanie’s debut novel, This Other Island.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON AMAZON UK

Short Story Challenge: The Gift of Gab #2022ShortStoryChallenge

This is our February story for the 2022 Short Story Challenge started by A Virginia Writer’s Diary. You can find the original post here. The theme this year is folklore and we’ve decided to set our stories in Appalachia. I say “we” because my husband Doug is writing these with me. We’re using the pen name Bonnie Douglas. This story is about the water in the mountains, and the old sayings “gift of gab,” and “there’s something in the water.”

The Gift of Gab

By Bonnie Douglas

       

  “Blech!” erupted almost involuntarily from my mouth as I took the first sip of water fresh out of the tap.  “I had almost forgotten how much I hated the taste of the water!”

            I could see my Mom shaking her head and hear the laugh hiding underneath her answer.

            “Well, Frances, you never were one to mince words. Tell me how you really feel.”

             “Now Mom, you know I just can’t take the iron taste of that water, fresh out of the branch or not.” I huffed, exasperated.  I knew it got under Mom’s skin that one of the things she loved about the mountain holler she grew up in was one of the things I disliked the most about it.

            Mom shrugged.  “The water is one of the things I will miss most.”

            Years ago, I had decided to go to college in the city, and I had not returned permanently until now.  My parents had decided to spend their retirement nearby in town, with much less lawn to mow.  It also put them closer to the grocery store and hospital.  By the time they offered to sell the house and land to me, I was much older and ready to make the jump from city living to the more laid-back mountain lifestyle. I was sure I could solve the water problem.

            The water that intermittently trickled or flooded down the branch depending on the season was one of the reasons Grandpa had picked this holler to settle in.  Mom and her whole family had grown up drinking that icy cold water, carrying it in buckets to fill the barrels that provided water to the dirt-floored cabin they grew up in, long before anyone had the means to drill a well or even think about piping water from the small town to the “country folks” houses.

            “You just don’t know what you’re missing,  Child,” Mom said softly.  “I hope you’ll remember to bring me jugs of water ‘regular’ once I move into town.  It means a lot to me.  You don’t even know how much!”

            “I know Mom, and I promise,” I said with determination.  I remembered all the stories about the land and how hard my Grandpa had worked to not only buy it, but to keep it. It was the very definition of hard times. When most people in the little mountain enclave were lucky to have any kind of food or shelter, my Grandpa worked two jobs in town and then came home to work some more.  Raising cattle and crops, cutting and hauling timber, building the little cabin and ramshackle barn,  and somehow finding the time to create a family of twelve with my Grandma. 

            There were also whispered family rumors about certain “activities” taking place in the hidden coves and almost impenetrable stands of mountain laurel that studded the hills.  These rumors involved a “special recipe” for moonshine that made it the most desired and sought after in a three-state area.  That all changed after one of the younger children, Cecily, died when the rickety wagon used for illicit deliveries in the dark of night rolled over and off the edge of the mountain trail in the light of day, with Cecily playing inside.     

            It was then that Grandpa became a preacher.  The death of his daughter brought him to his knees.  The moonshine no longer flowed out of the “holler,” but the Spirit did.  His sermons were famous throughout the county. 

            “Your Grandpa was such a good preacher he could save half the county on Sunday and the other half on Wednesday night!” Grandma used to say.  “Those lawbreakers and sinners would come running down to the altar like a pack of wild dogs after a bone.”

            I had always laughed at her joke, but Grandpa did have a way with words. His sermons were intertwined with stories that seemed to touch each listener personally, and they would come up the aisle, seeking the same relationship with Jesus that Grandpa enjoyed.  I had admired his extraordinary ability to share God with everyone in such a personal way. Grandpa had eventually expanded that relationship, going home to Heaven.

            As much as Grandpa could touch the soul of his parishioners with words, Grandma could tell a tale. When she was alive, she entertained us all with stories.  Some were mountain legends,  some were her own made-up tales, and some were from her life experiences.  She was even part of a mountain storytelling hour at the library in Asheville, and her stories were in great demand.   My favorite was The Hungry Toads, a story from her youth.  I used to beg for that story as a kid.  In the evenings after gardening was done, she would sit at the table with me, drinking coffee and eating pie, banana pudding, or other treats, and tell me her tales.  I smiled as I thought back to this story.

            “When I was 7, my socks started to go missing!” she would exclaim.   “This was something of a problem, because money was scarce and socks were not free.  My mother spent a lot of time darning socks to keep them wearable.  It all started when one day I went to my bedroom and one of my socks was laying on the floor.  Next to it was a small green toad, who hopped away when he saw me.  I scrabbled after the toad, caught him and took him outside.  Momma would not like a toad in the house.”

            I smiled as I recalled how Grandma would sit back, sip coffee, and continue.  “The next day, another sock was laying on the floor, and another toad hopped by me on his way out the door. And then I began to think the toads were stealing my socks.  But where had they put them?”

            I went into the kitchen and announced, “I’ve lost two socks to toads!”

            Lots of giggling from my brothers and sisters followed that statement, and Momma just looked at me. 

            “What do you mean, Gert?” She asked.

            “Two times I’ve found one of my socks on the floor, the other missing, and a toad in my room!  I think they’re stealing my socks.”  “Then a thought struck me as I picked up a biscuit. “Maybe they’re eating them!” 

              “Toads don’t eat socks!” My brother Ed scoffed.  “Toads eat flies and other bugs. They don’t eat wool or cotton.  I think you’re going crazy, Gert.” 

            “You need to find your socks, Gert,” said Momma.  I promise you, the toads didn’t eat them.”

            Grandma would always smile in remembrance as she thought of her Momma, then she would continue.

             “This went on for two more days, as I would go into my room, find one sock, and see the inevitable toad.  Eventually, I was down to one pair of matching socks, and a lot of socks without mates.  This was becoming a family mystery, and Daddy was beginning to take notice, looking at me thoughtfully as I described another visit from “the hungry toads.””

            “Gertie, you’re going to have to wear mismatched socks if you can’t find the missing ones,” he’d say softly.  “No extra money for new socks.”

            “I knew the truth of this and had not even planned to ask for new socks.  When my shoe went missing, though, that was another story altogether.  I went into my room on a Sunday, and one of my “Sunday best” shoes lay by itself on the floor.  Next to it was an impossibly large, green toad, with a white stomach and unblinking yellow eyes.”

             “Now they’re eating my shoes,” I yelled, running out into the front room.  Daddy looked at me skeptically but said nothing.  A missing sock was one thing, but a pair of new shoes was impossible.”

            “A couple of hours later, I saw Daddy walking down the hill with my brother Rufus, his fingers clamped tightly over Rufus’s left ear.  Rufus was howling, his ear redder than the embers in our woodstove.  He was carrying a bundle of socks.  And Daddy had in his hand my other Sunday shoe!”

            “Rufus will be washing your socks, Gert, and doing your chores all next week.”

            Grandma would laugh as she thought of that day.  “Rufus would steal a sock, replace it with a toad, and hide the socks up in the woods.  When he advanced to taking a shoe, Daddy had had enough!  He followed Rufus up into the woods and caught him trying to hide it in a hollow log.  So that’s how I learned that toads can’t eat socks!”

            Grandma was full of tales like this.  Like many other mountain storytellers, she could keep the listener mesmerized and leave them begging for more stories.   

            My mother had her own way with words.  She wrote poetry and short stories and submitted them to contests, often winning.  She had recently finished a book of poems and submitted it to a publisher. 

            I did not seem to have inherited the family talent with words. Though I would have loved to have written a book, I was always more comfortable with numbers, and owned my own accounting business.  I had already factored all the costs involved with getting water from somewhere that didn’t involve drinking something I simply didn’t like.

             “Mom, just so you know I plan to have well-drillers out here as soon as you move to town.”  My plan was to avoid that spring water by drilling deep enough to get into a completely different water supply.          

            “Good luck with that, Girly,” Mom almost giggled.  “You think you’re the first one to try?  There isn’t a well in this entire holler that produces anything but a lot of cash for the well driller.  That’s just one more reason everyone drinks that branch water you turn up your nose to.”

            “We’ll see Mom.  We’ll see.” I answered determinedly.

            Well, we did see, that’s for sure.  Three months and four different drilling companies found nothing.  I even hired six dowsers, all walking around with their “witching sticks,” and all claiming to find water.  Not a trace, not a trickle of anything remotely resembling water fit to drink was actually found.

            I’d spent every bit of the money I had earmarked for well drilling and even more besides.

            Disheartened, I scrounged together some more cash and built a reservoir and all the filtering and purifying equipment I could find.  I purchased advanced oxygenators, UV sanitizers, multiple stage filter systems and technical equipment I couldn’t identify.  It was all sold to me by a “water adviser,” who assured me I would have nothing but the best quality H2O that human intelligence could deliver.  If I had to drink that branch water I’d be darned if it was going to taste like anything but pure, fresh water. 

            It had taken a couple of days for the reservoir to fill from the branch and for that wretched brew to begin making its way through the convoluted intricacy of the purification system into my completely re-piped and re-plumbed little cabin. 

            With my hands quivering, I turned on the tap for the first time and filled one of my moon and stars patterned goblets with the first taste of the water I labored so hard to get. 

            Sniffing the goblet carefully, I could detect not a hint of the iron scent that generally accompanied a glass of branch water.  With trepidation, I lifted the goblet to my lips and let the merest trickle of water onto my tongue.  Swishing it around like a wine connoisseur, I tasted nothing.  Not a hint of the dreaded iron or the tiniest fleck of grit from the rock-filled branch.  Chuckling with glee, I filled a pitcher and poured a stream of delicious iron-free water into my coffee maker. This sure beat trying to get a water delivery company to make the journey up the rutted gravel path that was commonly known as a road in the holler.  I finally had it made! Water I could drink, cook with, and everything else that modern life required, all without an unpleasant iron taste.

             Today was the day I usually visited Mom and Dad in their rented little bungalow in town. I had a jug of Mom’s branch water already in the car. I grabbed my keys, and with a grin, I picked up an empty jug and filled it from the tap.  I’d take this along with me and slip it to Mom instead of her usual branch water, just to see if she could tell the difference.

             Whistling cheerfully, I jogged up the path to the house, carrying my substitute jug of water for Mom. Letting myself in I hollered into the kitchen “Mom, I’ve got your water!”

             I could hear Dad plucking on his banjo on the back porch and crooning a song to Mom as she worked in her garden patch.  I stepped onto the porch and listened.  For as far back as I can remember, whatever house we lived in had been filled with music, jokes, and stories.

            I walked up and listened as he sang “Carolina Sunshine Girl,” to the woman he adored.  His voice was wonderful, and he was often in demand to sing in church.  He’d never had any voice training that I know of, except from his mother.  As a boy, he had had a very pronounced stutter, and his mother figured out that if he sang his thoughts instead of speaking them, the stutter was greatly reduced.  Later in life, after he met Mom and came to live in the mountains, he lost the stutter completely.

            “I brought Mom’s water,” I announced, after he finished his song.  “And I love your singing,” I smiled. 

            “I have great inspiration,” he replied, gesturing at Mom.  “Emily,” he called out, “Your water’s here.” 

            “Oh good,” Mom replied walking up to the porch.  “That chlorine city water they have here in town is just not cutting it.”

            I handed her the jug, watching carefully.  She sipped it and smiled.  “I see you’ve been trying to change the taste.  It’s not quite what I remember, but it’s much better than the city water.” “And,” she grinned, her eyes twinkling at me, “You haven’t changed the soul of it.” 

            “Water doesn’t have a soul.” I replied.

            “Oh you might be surprised!” she answered. “But time will tell.” 

            This was not the first time I was unable to decipher one of Mom’s cryptic statements, so I didn’t even try. 

            As time went on, I acclimated to the cabin and basically forgot my battle with the water, checking that off as done and won.  I was operating my business right out of the cabin, having amazingly secured working internet, and my little gravel road even greeted the occasional client who wanted to talk in person.

            One such client was Jeannette Crisp, who preferred to do her business face-to-face.  I had been helping her settle up the estate of her late mother, who had died before I arrived back home. 

            Jeannette came in the door, appearing flustered.

            “Well, I’m at my wit’s end,” she said, taking a seat on the sofa in my little office that used to be a spare room.  “I just heard from the County.  Momma left five thousand dollars in property taxes unpaid.  They have extended it three times, but they can’t do it anymore.”             

            I was a little concerned.  Jeannette’s mother had left her the house and land, but there was nothing else of value, and no money.  We had used any extra cash paying off outstanding debt. 

            “If I can’t come up with the money by next month, I’m going to lose the house and land that’s been in my family for 100 years!” She twisted a handkerchief in her hands as she almost sobbed.  “I don’t know what to do.”

            We talked about options and possible items she could sell, but there was nothing that would bring anywhere near five thousand dollars.

            “I guess the only option is to talk to the bank about a loan,” I replied.  The house and land are paid off and worth a lot of money.  You can get an equity loan and pay the taxes with that.” 

            Jeannette sniffled and nodded. “I was trying everything I could to avoid getting a loan against the house. Momma was so proud when she paid it off.  She would hate getting a loan against it for any amount of money.”

            Agreeing that it couldn’t be avoided, we looked up interest rates for some of the local banks and settled on a course of action. 

            As she gathered up our research and prepared to leave, Jeannette said,  “Thanks, Fran.  You’ve made this a little more bearable for me.”

            “She kept a savings bond,” I blurted.  “It’s in the house. She forgot all about it.”   

            Jeannette whipped around, paused, and looked at me strangely. “What!” She paused again and said, “What!”

            I began to stammer. “I—I don’t…” I took a deep breath.  “I don’t know where that came from.  It just came out of my mouth.”

            “O…Kay…” Jeannette walked slowly to the door.  “Okay, Fran, I’ll talk to you later.”  Her voice was falsely bright and she scurried to her car.

            “Well I think I just lost a client,” I said out loud after she was gone.  “What was that!”  I had never lost control of my own voice before.  It had taken on a life of its own.  I gave up and went to lie down.  Maybe I needed a rest.

            A few days later, while at church, I was soaking in the sermon, still unnerved by the incident with Jeannette, and trying to find some peace.  I watched the family in the pew in front of me.  Clive and Mary Sanders and their three children.  They were all so beautiful.  Clive, son of a local banker, immediately caught the eye with his chiseled chin and brown curls, cut and pomaded into a style that models would envy.  Mary’s blonde hair hung down her back and she wore the latest designs well on her trim frame.  The children were all perfectly beautiful combinations of them both, and so well behaved.  I was sure they didn’t blurt out inappropriate things for no reason.  As the sermon wound down, I felt guilty for being distracted by my own silly predicament.

            Mary came up to me, smiling, as we all began our exit after the final prayer. “Hi Fran! How are you doing?”

            “Leave him,”  I said.  “You deserve better.”

            Mary’s face paled and she stood stock still, her eyes filling up with tears. 

            “I’m sorry,” I began. “I don’t know why…”

            She reached for my arm and pulled me into an empty corner. “How did you know?”  The tears were spilling down her face now. 

            “I’m sorry!” I repeated, wiping at tears running down my own face now as well.  “I don’t know why I would say such a horrible thing.”

            “But it’s true.”  Mary began to pull herself together.  “It’s true, and I haven’t faced it.”  She smoothed her hair and looked me in the eye.  “He cheats on me over and over, and then blames me for it. I thought I should keep the family together, but your words just now seemed to shake me out of it.  How did you know?”

            “Would you believe I didn’t know?” I said, putting a shaking hand out to her.  “It just came out of my mouth.”

            Mary sighed. “Maybe the Lord works in mysterious ways after all, especially in church.  Thank you, Fran, for making me face this.” 

            She dried her tears and had a firm look in her eye as she walked away. I, however, was a mess.  I was even less prepared for Jeannette, who was waiting for me at my car.

            “How did you know?” seemed to be the question of the day, and she greeted me with a smile and a hug. 

            “Know what?” I asked, still struggling to process my conversation with Mary.

            She was waving something at me.  It was a savings bond. 

            “After I met with you last Wednesday, I thought you were strange to say the least!  But I still couldn’t resist looking around the house for a savings bond.  I found it in a frame behind Grandpa’s old picture up in the attic.  Momma bought a $750 savings bond when I was a little girl!  I looked it up and now it’s worth $7500!  I can pay off the taxes and have a little left over!” 

            She hugged me, ecstatic.  “But I can’t figure out how you knew.”

            I threw my hands up in the air.  “I didn’t know!” I exclaimed.  “It just came out of my mouth.”

            Jeannette paused, thoughtfully.  “Maybe Momma’s spirit was with us.”

            “Maybe,” I said, still thinking to myself that I might be going crazy.

            After Jeannette’s many thanks, and a promise to come see me at tax time, I got into my car and headed home.  My mind was racing with the events of the day.  Instead of heading out of town and back to my cabin, I found myself driving to Mom’s house. 

            “Fran!” Mom hugged me after I arrived, and then stepped back, taking in my somber face and desperate eyes. 

            “What’s the matter?”

            “Mom, I’m going crazy!  I’m blurting things out to people who are just acquaintances, things I couldn’t possibly know!”

            She put her hands on my face.  “Try and calm down,” Her soft whisper held so much strength that I did begin to relax.

            “Now tell me, “What things?” “What do you mean.”

            So I related my encounters with Jeannette and Mary, and their surprising conclusions.  Her face relaxed into almost a smile as I finished.

            “Well, I’ve never seen it manifest itself exactly this way before.”

            I started in surprise.  “Seen what!” I exclaimed.

            Instead of answering, she picked up a letter. “It’s from Blankford and Dunn.” 

            I recognized the name of the famous publisher instantly.

            “They say I’m a unique talent and they will be pleased to publish my poems.  I’ve been offered a contract for four books, with the option for more.”

            I forgot my own dilemma for a moment and gleefully grabbed her in my arms, jumping up and down and taking her with me.  “Congratulations!”  “That’s amazing!” 

            “Don’t you see, dear, that this family has a special talent for words?” 

            “Not me,” I said.  I can’t write a coherent sentence or tell a story.  I certainly can’t write poetry, like you.  But I was balancing your checkbook at the age of 10.”

            “Well, Fran,” she said cautiously, piercing me with her gaze. “Think about it and tell me what’s different about you.”

            I started to feel a little self-conscious, even though I knew my mother would never insult me.  I shook my head, bewildered.

            “You rarely drank the water.”  My father’s deep voice boomed behind me, making me jump.

            He put his hand on my shoulder and came around to face me.  “Sorry to startle you, but think about it.  You took a couple sips when you were little, declared you didn’t like the water, and avoided it whenever you could. You drank milk, Mountain Dew, Orange Crush, and anything else that wasn’t our spring water.” 

            I laughed. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

            In answer, he grabbed my hand.  “I first met your Mom in the city, where I grew up with a pretty bad stutter.  My mother, as you know, taught me to sing the words I found it difficult to get out.  But I still stuttered quite a bit and I couldn’t go around singing all the time.  Then Emily brought me down here.” He grinned at Mom.  “In a few weeks, my stutter began to ease, and within a couple of years I found myself with a pretty good singing voice.”  Then he smiled and tipped up my chin.  “And what was different about being here, Fran?”

            It couldn’t be.  I didn’t believe it, but there was only one answer.  “The water.”

            Mom piped in, her voice taking on a musical quality.  “You ever hear the phrase, “There’s something in the water?”

            I nodded. 

            “Did you ever wonder why we have such a storytelling tradition and so many great tale-tellers here in the mountains, all with the “gift of gab?”

            “You’re telling me it’s the spring water?” I asked. My voice had taken on a higher pitch as I struggled to take in what I was hearing.

            “Well, have you ever done anything like this before?” Mom asked.  “Before you began drinking the water regularly?”

            I shook my head, my mind reeling.

            Mom smiled. “The closest I can recall to it is my father’s gift for preaching.  He had a sincere desire to help people and he always seemed to be able to say the right thing.  It’s close to that with you.  You have been given the gift of helping others, not with eloquent speech or writing, but you’re helping them all the same.”

            “But how do I know these things?”

            “Well, maybe you’ve just been given the ability to sense things that the people you are helping already knew.  Jeannette may have a forgotten memory of that savings bond from her girlhood.  Mary certainly knew her husband was cheating on her. You’re just helping them remember or deal with the truth.  Or maybe it’s more than that.”  She shrugged. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

            “But I’m not consciously doing anything!”

            She shrugged and smiled, putting her arm around Dad.  “There’s something in the water.  Filtered or not, that water is changing you.  We’re living proof as well, and it’s been going on for generations.  I really wasn’t sure until your Dad came down here. Some people, for some reason, have a “gift for words” that is magnified when drinking the water.  Your father’s speech was healed by these waters.   Your talent is different, but look what you’ve done with it!  You’ve already helped two people.”

            Again, without any control, I blurted, “You need to move back!” They looked at each other in surprise.  I looked back at them, just as disconcerted.

            “Well, the water has spoken again,” I laughed.  “You don’t really want to be in town.  We can build another cabin on the land and you can come back home. I can help with the shopping and take you to medical appointments.  We’ll find someone to mow the grass.  It will work out.”

            After they promised to think about it, I once again hit the road for home.  I knew when I said the words that they were the truth.  My parents were moving back onto the land, and that was the right thing. 

            I thought about my situation.  What was I going to say next? What embarrassing predicaments would I end up in?  But I knew that if it helped people, it was worth it.   I knew as sure as that branch traveling down the mountain, that if I could make others happy and help resolve their problems, I was all in. 

            Come to think of it, I felt a little thirsty.

Author’s Note: For this story, we took the tradition of mountain storytelling and combined it with the sayings “there’s something in the water” and “gift of gab.”  A branch runs through our property in the Smokies, and Bonnie’s Mom drank from that branch as a girl.  Bonnie’s Dad actually did have a stuttering problem as a child.  He lost his Mom at the age of eight, and it was a nun in the orphanage he was sent to who helped him overcome the stutter by singing. 

Self-Published Saturday: Leora’s Letters

Self-Published Saturday is my effort to help self-published/indie authors. Self-published authors have to do it all, from editing to cover design to marketing. If I can help even a little bit with the marketing, I’m happy to do it. Below is a review of Leora’s Letters by Joy Neal Kidney. This is the heartbreaking story of a mother whose sons went off to war, and some of them did not return.

BOOK REVIEW

This is a heartbreaking look back at the real lives and losses of the family of Clabe and Leora Wilson, who were tenant farmers with seven living children at the start of the story. The prologue begins with the living family members putting flowers on the graves for “decoration day,” and we learn that they lost three sons and brothers in World War II. Photos and biographies of the Wilsons’ seven children who had lived to adulthood are also included. I had first gotten to know Leora’s family by reading book two, Leora’s Dexter Stories, which is a prequel. Leora and Clabe had already lost three of their ten children in infancy, and it broke my heart to see their additional loss and suffering in Leora’s Letters. In all, the Wilsons lost six of their ten children, three of them during World War II. But this is not just about loss. This is about a family that worked very hard to survive and always supported each other no matter what. The letters they all wrote to each other throughout the war are a testament to that love and support, as well as the closeness they all enjoyed.

Through their actual letters, we follow these sons and the entire family as the war progresses. And we see not only separation and suffering, but we witness the remaining family members doing backbreaking work, with the majority of their efforts going to the people who actually owned the farm. It is a testament to the way life was back then for working men and women. But this book is also about love and perseverance in the midst of all of the pain. It is a well-researched account of some of the significant events of World War II, and it will transport you back in time to the bloodiest war in history where over 60 million people died. Ultimately, it will introduce you to a loving and remarkable American farming family that made the ultimate sacrifice over and over and over again.

The research and writing of Joy Neal Kidney, and her willingness to share her family story with the world, are to be commended.

I downloaded a copy of this book on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can read it for free.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joy Neal Kidney

(In her own words) I am the keeper of family stories, letters, pictures, research, combat records, casualty reports, and terrible telegrams. Active on several history and military Facebook pages, I help administer local ones–Audubon County, Dallas County, and Guthrie County, Iowa–the places where my motherline stories originated, as well as Depression Era Iowa. 

Born two days before D-Day to an Iowa farmer who became an Army Air Corps pilot, then an instructor–with orders for combat when the war ended–and an Iowa waitress who lost three of her five brothers during that war. I spent my childhood in an Iowa farmhouse with a front porch. Now I live with my husband, a Vietnam veteran, in a suburban house with a front porch.

I’ve published two books (“Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II” and “Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression.”) I’m a regular contributor to Our American Stories. 

JOY’S WEBSITE

LINKS

BUY LEORA’S LETTERS ON AMAZON

BUY LEORA’S DEXTER STORIES ON AMAZON

My review of Leora’s Dexter Stories is here

*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published authors go a long way!

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Child I Never Had #Adoption #Family

BOOK DESCRIPTION

If you had to make an impossible choice to save your long-lost daughter, you would… wouldn’t you?

It’s a warm early summer’s evening when Mia’s doorbell rings. She opens the door to see a teenage girl standing in the shadow beyond the porch light—and in an instant she knows who it is. Daisy, the daughter she gave up as a baby. Daisy steps forward, as she says tearfully “I’m sorry I didn’t call first. But something happened. And I really needed… you.”

Seventeen years before, knowing she couldn’t possibly give her beautiful little girl Daisy the future she deserved, Mia made the hardest decision of her life—to give her up. And Suzanne seemed the perfect adoptive mother: calm, stable, and full of love for the daughter she’d always dreamed of having.

The two mothers promised to keep communication open, so Daisy could have Mia’s love and support along with Suzanne’s. But as the years passed, Mia moved away, and their visits happened less. Now Daisy is almost a stranger to Mia—angry, closed and broken—nothing like the tiny girl she once couldn’t bear to say goodbye to.

But now Daisy has arrived on Mia’s doorstep, and she says she has a terrible secret. One she can never tell Suzanne. And she believes the only person who can help her is Mia. Her birth mother.

Mia, however, has secrets of her own. Ones she is afraid to let Daisy or anyone else know. And while Suzanne desperately seeks a way to bring her child home, can Mia overcome her past to help the girl they both call their daughter in her darkest hour before it’s too late?

BOOK REVIEW

This is a really comprehensive look at open adoption through the eyes of the child, Daisy, the adoptive mother, Suzanne, and the birth mother Mia. Different events in their lives are seen from the point of view of each of them. Suzanne holds nagging fear that her daughter will leave her. Mia feels guilt over not staying in touch with Daisy as much as she should. And Daisy is angry at everyone. When Daisy abruptly leaves and goes to find Mia, everything comes to a head.

The story is compelling and keeps you turning the page. The characters are well developed and interesting, and the plot is complex, with a surprise at the end. There were many flashbacks, which I felt were overdone. Other than that, this was a captivating read.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Hewitt is the author of many romance and women’s fiction novels. A former New Yorker and now an American ex-pat, she lives in a small town on the Welsh border with her husband, five children, and their overly affectionate Golden Retriever. Whatever the genre, she enjoys telling stories that tackle real issues and touch people’s lives. 

BUY LINKS

Amazon
Apple
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Google

Audio Links:

UK
US

Another Anniversary of Sorts #DVT #BloodClot

My husband reminded me today that this is another anniversary for me, both unpleasant and pleasant in a way. Four years ago on this day I went to the emergency room because my left leg had basically stopped working. It felt like a block of wood that I was dragging around with me. When it swelled up and turned purple, we headed to the emergency room.

What I found out then was that I had a massive blood clot, from abdomen to toes, and just barely a pulse in my foot. I was diagnosed with acute DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). I was very blessed that the clot did not break off and go to my lungs. I was admitted to the hospital and put on blood thinners. I went to an interventional radiologist the next day, and they were able to remove most of the clot with a catheter. Afterwards, I was in extreme pain and still did not have much use of my leg. It would take three weeks for me to walk again and five weeks before I could go back to work from home. It was almost two months before I could drive again.

My husband did everything for me after I got back home from the hospital. He rearranged the furniture for a wheelchair, helped me to the bathroom and in and out of the tub, and put on the compression socks I had to wear because I could not bend my leg! This was in addition to waiting on me hand and foot! I am very blessed to have him.

There’s my Doug.

The good news, and the pleasant part, is that I have not had another clot in four years.

What caused my DVT was twofold. I had just gotten back from a long work trip in the car where I had to drive 8 hours each way, and I spent a lot of time during that trip sitting at a desk, which wasn’t normal for me. All that sedentary time helped cause the blood clot. The other cause I found out after genetic testing done by my hematologist. I have Factor 2 prothrombin, a genetic mutation which makes my blood clot more than normal. So those two things working together caused my blood clot.

Now when I have to take a long trip, I stop and walk around. I took a flight to Japan 8 months after I had that blood clot and I was fine, as I got up and walked around at least every two hours. I would advise everyone to do that on long trips, whether you’ve had problems with blood clots or not.

So here I am four years later. I am still supposed to wear compression socks daily, and if I don’t the leg will swell up again. It’s something I don’t like, but if I don’t do it, I pay the price. I definitely don’t wear them as much as I should.

My summer look. Compression sock on the left.

So that’s my “Clotiversary” story. I’m blessed to have never had another one.